I am honored to join you tonight to support the tremendous work of the Rape Recovery Center. The Rape Recovery Center makes a huge, positive impact in the lives of those it serves, and a huge difference for our community as a whole.
The headline of a June 14th Salt Lake Tribune article read: "Utah's Violent-Crime Numbers Also Down." The article focused on the drop in most violent crime rates, barely mentioning that "reported rapes increased 5 percent to 838."
The headline of a June 14th Deseret News article read: "Some violent crimes decline - Utah rate also down in 2000; robberies, rapes rose, however." Once again, the article focuses on an overall 15 percent drop in United States violent crime and a 7.5 percent decrease in Utah violent crime. One line, later in the article, mentions that Utah rape rates increased by 5.4 percent.
Sexual assault should not be viewed as an afterthought. Our community needs to formally acknowledge the horrendous nature of this crime by investing in prevention and treatment for victims and offenders. The 5% increase in sexual assault over the last year represents lives forever altered by unimaginable pain, fear and suffering.
This is a hard issue for people to talk about, especially in our community, where discussions that address issues of sexuality are frequently taboo – especially given the propensity of our Legislature to mandate non-sex sex education. Yet, in order to address the tragedy of sexual assault we must discuss it. We need to honestly address the causes and consequences of sexual assault. We need to openly discuss healthy sexual behaviors in order to prevent the unhealthy behaviors that lead to sexual violence. We must discuss within our schools, our families, and our communities, the dynamics of power that exist in sexual relations between human beings.
Briefly consider the statistics from the Salt Lake City Police Department: In 1999, they investigated 216 felony sexual assaults with adult victims (18 and over). In 1999, 361 felony sexual assaults with child victims were investigated. In 2000, SLCPD investigated 265 felony sexual assaults on adults and 392 on child victims. The numbers are going up. Last year the victims in 270 of the cases involving children were between 11-17 years of age.
Young people who understand the mechanics and biology of sexual behavior can be educated regarding the emotional components of sex – how to respect your partner, how to talk appropriately about sex with a partner or prospective partner, how to say "no," how to hear, see and feel "no," so that when someone says "no" to sex with you, you walk away. Finally, and most importantly, we need to teach our young people how to protect themselves from sexual violence.
Unfortunately our community has not yet been able to provide honest, comprehensive sex education for young people through our public education system, and by the time our law enforcement agencies become involved in sexual assault cases, great damage has already been done.
We are fortunate the Rape Recovery Center exists to educate us; to move us to action to prevent sexual assault; and, to help heal the lives wounded by it.
The Rape Recovery Center works very closely with members of the Salt Lake City Police Department to provide services to victims. Rape Recovery volunteers are dispatched to medical facilities wherever a sexual assault victim shows up. In Salt Lake City, our Police Department's procedure is to call Rape Recovery on every sexual assault case in which the victim seeks medical attention.
Approximately 80% of our Police Department?s sexual assault calls come from the hospital where the victim goes to find help. When a sexual assault call comes into SLCPD, the dispatch person first calls an officer to go to hospital. The second call goes to the Rape Recovery Center.
The Rape Recovery Center offers critical assistance to victims that police officers often cannot. An officer's primary focus is to collect data and evidence for the case. The Rape Recovery Center's primary focus is to offer human support to the victim. Our partnership with Rape Recovery has worked extremely well -- from Rape Recovery representatives providing training to new police recruits; to our Police Department providing training to Rape Recovery volunteer classes. Rape Recovery staff and volunteers very effectively address a victim's emotional care at the hospital and Rape Recovery staff and volunteers attend trials to provide support to the victims through the judicial process. Finally, the SLCPD and Rape Recovery share statistical data in order to educate the community, thus generating resources for prevention and treatment of those impacted by these crimes.
In July 1990, in an article titled "Dirt and Dignity," Anna Quindlen quoted a statement made by the Central Park jogger's mother to reporters when they requested interviews. The mother turned reporters away by saying, "We are united in our silence." Let us refuse to perpetuate community environments across this nation where not talking about a violent, atrocious act is the safest alternative for the victim; where not talking about healthy sexuality is the common practice of many parents and neighborhood institutions; and where it is acceptable to diminish the importance of an increase in sexual assaults.
Clearly, by your presence here tonight, you are people who are committed to action, to compassion and healing. These are the qualities that help us, person by person, to build stronger communities. I applaud you and the Rape Recovery Center. Together we can – and do – make a huge, positive difference.